Negative Capability Essay Collection - Call for Submissions

full name / name of organization: 
Brian Rejack, Illinois State University
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We seek abstracts for essays to be included in an upcoming edited collection, Disquisitions: Reading Negative Capability, 1817-2017.

As we approach the two-hundred-year anniversary of Keats's letter to his brothers in which he coined "negative capability," the concept continues to shape assessments of and responses to Keats's work. It has also escaped the gravitational pull of Keats studies and surfaced in discussions ranging from such contradictory domains as contemporary poetics, John Dewey's philosophical pragmatism, Wilfred Bion's psychoanalytical theory, the marketing strategy of Eben Pagan, and the minimalist style of punk rockers, The Urinals, with their album, Negative Capability…Check It Out! Does this elasticity signal something valuable about the concept that apparently opens itself to virtually any application? Or perhaps its variability renders it a cipher into which any meaning can be injected? Has the term itself--with its seductive allure that so entramelled Walter Jackson Bate, in his prioritizing of negative capability as the apotheosis of Keatsian poetics--ensured its durability among so many other traces of Keats's language?

Precisely because we assume that we know perfectly well how important negative capability was to Keats's poetic project, and still is to his legacy, a reassessment is now needed. The essays in this volume will, taken together, account for some of the history of negative capability, and propose new models and directions for its future in scholarly and popular discourse. The essays will be divided into three sections: 1) negative capability's pre-history and originary contexts, 2) its emergence across the 19th century, and 3) its afterlives in the 20th and 21st centuries.

While we welcome abstracts on topics that might fit into any of these contexts, we're particularly interested in submissions that focus on the first two: the original contexts for the first penning of the term, and the ways in which it might be understood in relation to Keats's nineteenth-century reputation.

Please send a 500-word abstract and one-page CV to Brian Rejack ( or Michael Theune ( by February 29, 2016. Completed manuscripts will be due in October 2016. Feel free to send email queries to either of the above addresses. Thank you for your interest.